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Over 100 rural WOZA members arrested in Filabusi today
Statement and updates

Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
June 11, 2007

Following on from the demonstrations and arrests in Bulawayo last week, over 100 members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) were arrested in Filabusi today. The exact numbers are not clear as activists are still entering the police station to hand themselves in.

Rural members of WOZA had gathered today in Filabusi, the administrative centre for Insiza District, to launch the People's Charter in that area. The Peoples' Charter is the result of an eleven-month process of consulting ordinary Zimbabweans on what they want in a socially just future. The people of Insiza were widely consulted on their vision of a new Zimbabwe and endorsed the People's Charter fully in return visits to the district.

Several hundred women had gathered in Filabusi this morning but before they could begin to march, police began arresting them. Those not arrested then marched to the police station to hand themselves in, in solidarity.

This demonstration today follows on from People's Charter launch demonstrations in Bulawayo, Harare, Masvingo, Gweru and Mutare. It also follows on from demonstrations last week in Bulawayo to press for the inclusion of voices at the negotiating table that will raise the social justice issues contained in the People's Charter - issues at the heart of ordinary Zimbabweans.

News update
Monday 11th June - 6pm

Rural WOZA members released without charge

The WOZA members arrested and detained at Filabusi Police Station today were released without charge just after noon. Police returned all the t-shirts and scarves that they had confiscated but kept all the placards and copies of the People's Charter to submit to provincial leaders.

Minutes before the peaceful protest was about to begin, a police vehicle arrived at the Post Office, the starting point of the demonstration. An officer armed with an AK 47 assault rifle alighted and approached two members. He said to them - "you are always talking about rights, but why don't you say what rights you are talking about." He then ordered them into the vehicle and drove them to the police station. Approximately 150 other members decided to follow and hand themselves in. Police stopped recording down their names after an hour, saying they were tired.

When the female officer in charge asked them why they were there, the women briefed her on the hunger in their homes, their inability to pay school fees and the fact that they were no longer allowed to dig for gold to help themselves. She apparently sympathised with them saying she also found it hard to make ends meet in her home. She then called the District Administrator to attend the 'meeting'. He listened to the complaints; telling them food aid would soon be coming and that they should set more affordable fees, as parents. He accepted the People's Charter and placards, saying that he would pass them on to his seniors and that a reply would come to them soon. They were then told to go home.

When lawyers attended shortly after their release, police denied that any women had been arrested - they had merely had a meeting with them. The lawyer did overhear some police officers planning to locate the whereabouts of Jenni Williams who was in the area to monitor proceedings however. Fortunately Williams was able to leave in the company of the lawyers before they could make good their plan.

WOZA declare a victory for non-violent protest and acknowledge the 'sisterhood' from the officer in charge who treated the WOZA activists with respect. We look forward to the promised food aid, hopefully without any political strings attached, from the District Administrator to be fulfilled.

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